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Life and Work with Sarah Rodenhouse

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Rodenhouse.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sarah. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
From jamming out to Michael Jackson’s BAD album at age 4, through studying dance performance and education at Towson University, to dancing professionally for the first decade of my young adult life, I have always thrived on movement. After experiencing commercial auditions around LA and NY, where I felt like I didn’t always fit in, I realized that I wasn’t just a dancer, but an artist. My “quirks” and oddities were all part of my unique voice and I finally discovered that in dance, like any other art form, there is no wrong or right, just what feels good and allows you to genuinely express yourself. This pushed me to form a professional dance company called MashUp that celebrated many unique female voices, and then ultimately create Moved LA, a creative movement workshop for everyone to show even people who consider themselves “non” dancers that they too can have a unique voice within this art form without an ounce of training.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In dance, there are lots of outside obstacles. You are constantly being judged on a daily basis and the competition is pretty intense. But I’d have to say that the biggest challenge has been standing in my own way, and this is a challenge that I think I am still overcoming. As I get older, I’ve realized that just because I don’t have certain jobs listed on my resume doesn’t mean I’m not a good dancer and it doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot over the past 11 years that I’ve been pursuing this.

One thing I’m proud of is that I’ve really stayed true to myself through the process and have surrounded myself with really good people who support me no matter what my dance career looks like. I’m finally becoming more comfortable with who I am as a dancer and a choreographer, and have grown to like the quirks that used to make me feel like I wasn’t a good dancer.

On top of this, building two businesses (one of which is a non-profit) with limited resources is definitely a struggle. You have to really believe in what you’re doing and be willing to do anything necessary to keep things afloat. Taking on multiple job titles and eventually learning how to be ok with asking for help when you really need it is all part of it.

Please tell us about MoveLA and MashUp Contemporary Dance Company.
As Artistic Director of MashUp Contemporary Dance Company and founder of Moved LA, I have the opportunity to do something meaningful in my community. I get to use the very thing that has been the source of so much happiness, and at times pain, to bring people together, inspire, and create important conversations. I am using my voice to set choreography on some of the most beautiful female dancers in LA, direct and manage an amazing professional dance company, and invite people who perhaps know nothing about dance, to experience the power of movement.

Both MashUp and Moved LA are designed to bring dance to the forefront in different communities. Though the commercial world of dance is important, I want to prove that concert dance and creative movement are just as necessary.

With MashUp, the purpose is two-fold. We are providing our audiences and communities with engaging and powerful works of art, but we are also providing the many talented female dancers of LA with a platform to truly push themselves creatively and perform at the level they deserve to be performing at. We want to show those female dancers can not only be graceful, but also strong and encourage young women to be articulate and confident females. Beyond this, our programming includes after-school dance education with organizations like LAs Best and The Girl Scouts, where we aim to empower young minds and bodies through dance.

With Moved LA, I am providing people particularly those who wouldn’t consider themselves dancers with an unexpected outlet to think creatively and get in touch with their bodies in a fun and safe environment. Unlike other dance classes, Moved LA is a creative movement workshop where there is no difficult choreography to pick up, just stimulating exercises that allows everyone to create their own way of moving and express themselves in a unique way and really connect with each other.

Through my work with MashUp and Moved LA, people are being exposed and drawn to a deeper element of dance. Dance that is thought-provoking and challenging. I believe these are fundamental parts of both art and life.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
I think the resiliency I developed from dealing with loads of rejection in the dance industry has certainly aided in my successes at this point. After a decade of dance auditions in a difficult industry, I basically felt like reject was my middle name. For a lot of these commercial projects, I just wasn’t the type of dancer they wanted me to be and in my mind, that meant that I just wasn’t a good dancer at all. I think everyone has felt like this at some point or another and this feeling very specifically has been the inspiration behind a lot of my work with MashUp and Moved LA. My rejections have helped me to better understand who I really am and inspired me to create based on exactly that. These experiences have also helped me recognize my strength and pushed me to keep getting up when I fall down.

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Image Credit:

Stephanie Pia, Erin Cuevas, Geneva Cegelis, Kelly Mustapha-Kellett

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